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Once again, we have ambiguity in the phrasing. Are we talking shows where, in-universe, males have wider agency for reasons of setting? Or shows where male character agency is narratively overweighted? Shows that, all else being equal, simply focus predominantly on males or their POV? Male showrunner/writing team/crew? What?

Well, anyways. Also, I'm assuming the wording means a favourite character within any given male-driven show. Not out of all male-driven shows, which features your favourite female character? Because ... redundant?



Day Five: Favorite female character on a male-driven show

Alma Garrett-Ellsworth of Deadwood.

I actually have a lot of love for the ladies of this series. I love that they are flawed, vulnerable, desperate and enduring. I love that their varied stories of strength have nothing to do with Face-Kicking the Patriarchy IN THE FACE, YEAH!!! (And the one time one of them tries it, it goes horribly horribly wrong. Which doesn't set it apart from most other schemes and actions taken in the series, to be honest.) Pretty much everyone in the camp has to roll with the crap. Even Bullock has to learn to unclench.

So, Alma. I love that she's not especially superior in any way, other than her wealth which does as much to make her a target for more powerful men as it does to protect her from the less powerful. Well, and she's beautiful, a similarly double-edged advantage. She's not a schemer, she's educated and smart enough but not brilliant, she shows poor judgement, she's haughty, she's pissy, she's selfish. She hates – almost as much as Bullock does – having to bend to circumstance, so much so that she was zealously medicating the situation when she was hopelessly trapped in a marriage to a self-important buffoon. A drug habit she falls back on when she miscarries, and has to dig her way out of again. Which she does. Because she's nothing if not stubborn, and she does not like to be mastered.

Despite not being all that well-equipped to navigate the shark pool that is Deadwood, she would still rather stay than go back to the constraints of east coast society (although she may well have been overestimating her abilities in the Deadwood arena, too). Her real genius seems to be engaging the loyalty of a few key players in the town, through some mixture of artlessly acknowledging her need for their help, and treating them with courtesy (provided they're not telling her what to do (Doc)). She seems to have an intuition for honourable hearts, however well disguised, and a knack for securing their sympathies. By the time the series is cut off, she even seems to have won Al's respect, which with him seems to be the best way to get him onside. None of this is calculated, though; it just seems to be the way she deals with people. And I absolutely adore the spiky friendship that slowly grows between her and Trixie.

But I think what makes me pick her as favourite is that, in spite of all her faults and flaws, each of her substantial achievements are for the benefit of others and the camp. In some ways, you could say that hers are the most positive (and least corrupt) civic milestones. Other than adopting Sophia, she promotes the establishment of the school and founds the bank. While the men struggle for power and influence, she is free to set up two of the most stabilising developments of the town, and she does. She doesn't just sit back and grow fat on her profits, she's engaged. She cares. While what she can't do might frustrate her, she sizes up what she can, and she does it. Plus? After being shot at in the street, she recovers herself in Al's office, accepts his judgement that she was "bait, not quarry" and agrees to "complete your walk to the bank; get that fuckin' angler fulminatin', tanglin' in his fuckin' tackle and the like." She pulls herself together and continues her walk down the thoroughfair. Alone. She is terrified, you can see it on her face, but defiant and committed. It's hard to overstate how very much she does not have to do this, but for herself, and even more on behalf of the entire camp, she (figuratively) bares her teeth at Hearst, to "demonstrate his tactic's failure, and to bid defiance to him who shot at me." The whole moment is surreal and creepy and awesome (and on YouTube here).

(You know the odd thing? The other consideration for this pick was Winona Hawkins of Justified. Timothy Olyphant is like the Michael Biehn of our times my favourite flawed tough interesting ladies.)


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